Your child’s birthday is approaching fast – you’ve bought the present, you’ve organized a celebratory meal, but there’s one vital thing left on the ‘to-do’ list: a homemade birthday cake. For many mothers, birthday cakes are a big worry, especially when baking is not one of their strong points. But there’s no need to panic – read on to learn how to create stress-free birthday cakes that you and your child can be proud to share.
What makes the perfect birthday cake?
Curiously, no birthday celebration seems complete without a cake, which means providing one is often a source of stress. Many mothers see birthday cakes as a test of their culinary skills and a chance to display their baking know-how. Add to this your darling child’s demands for an obscurely themed cake that is better than their friend’s birthday cake, and you’ve got a highly pressurised situation on your hands! The perfect birthday cake is one that makes your child happy, but it’s also one that’s stress-free for you. Impressing others should always be an afterthought – for your child and for you.
Birthday Cake Choices
Thankfully, very young children have very low expectations when it comes to birthday cakes. Something tasty with a candle stuck in the middle is all toddlers will need. The older your child gets, the more important the look of the birthday cake is to them. But setting boundaries can go a long way towards making everyone happy. Give your child a menu of specific flavours, colours, and themes – then, they can choose from these options, which will simplify things for you!
Apart from buying an expensive shop-bought creation, one of the easiest ways to take away the pressure of having to produce a fancy birthday cake is to ask your child to help you make the birthday cake themselves. Of course, this will erase any element of surprise, but it’s a small price to pay for a stress-free solution! Kids love experimenting in the kitchen and helping you cook – and getting messy is half of the fun! When baking at home, your children learn valuable cooking skills – and getting dirty while mixing and measuring all the ingredients can be fun and educational at the same time!
Birthday Cake Designs and Inspiration
Birthday cake recipes can be found in any cookbook. The cake is usually just a simple sponge cake – often chocolate or vanilla – that is cooked or cut into a particular shape (a circle or square are the most common). You don’t need to choose a complicated recipe – an old favourite will be great! Birthday cakes are usually covered in a type of icing (usually butter or royal icing) and decorated with (sometimes edible) elements that may or not be chosen according to a particular theme. If you’re looking for inspiration, Surf Excel has some tasty gingerbread men and chocolate cake recipes that you can try.
These days, themed and sculpted (3D) birthday cakes are very popular, and most of these only use basic cutting and sticking techniques (using a knife and icing). It’s easy to search the internet for 3D birthday cake designs and tutorials, but beware – looking at birthday cake pictures with your child can be inspiring, but this strategy might backfire if your little one decides they want a cake design that requires skills or materials that you don’t have!
Birthday Cake Shortcuts and Tips
- Consider making individual cupcakes instead of one large cake – it takes the pressure out of having a one big cake.
- Use a box of cake mix if you have limited time, but they produce fluffier sponges that can crumble easily, so be careful when icing.
- Buy ready-made vanilla frosting or ready-to-roll icing and add drops of food-colouring, instead of making it from scratch.
- Buy pre-printed cake ‘toppers’ – these are an extremely quick an easy way of producing an edible themed or personalised iced cake.
- Don’t forget the candles! Use them to cover or detract from any decorating mishaps.
- Use inexpensive shop-bought toys to make simple themed cakes (cars on a racetrack, for example).
- Use chocolates (like Gems), marshmallows, and squeezy tubes of icing for easy cake decoration.
- Never try out a new baking or decorating technique at the last minute. If in doubt, always do a practice run.
Have you made a cake for your child’s birthday party? Let us know your birthday cake ideas in the comments below!